Tens of thousands of refugees return to Kyrgyzstan
Bishkek (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Thousands of refugees are returning home after fleeing to Uzbekistan when violence broke out in southern Kyrgyzstan June 10. Meanwhile, the interim government confirmed that Sunday's vote a referendum on a new constitution will go ahead.
UN sources speak of about 70 thousand refugees who had crossed the border with Uzbekistan. But hundreds of thousands prefer to remain in Uzbekr efugee camps, while data on large numbers of displaced who remained in Kyrgyzstan is uncertain. In recent days the UN has spoken of hundreds of thousands.
Many explain that they are returning home out of fear rather than hope: they want to be re-united with family that remained to defend their few belongings, or to look for people separated in the first dramatic days of the conflict. In Osh and nearby cities uncertainty remains: local sources say that there are still attacks on the Uzbek community. In the early days of this week, the army and police raided the homes of ethnic Uzbeks in the Osh, seized weapons and detained all those who posed resistance. From the outset the ethnic Uzbeks charge the police have done little to prevent attacks by ethnic Kyrgyz.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in recent days has called for the deployment of an international security force in southern Kyrgyzstan, but the UN Security Council has not taken up any initiative, although it admits the high risk of new widespread violence. Russia in particular is opposed to sending UN forces into a former Soviet Union area and one with which it maintains a special relationship.
The interim government still wants to hold the referendum on Sunday, June 27 to change the Constitution, supported in this by international diplomacy.
Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, assistant secretary general, says that the UN will help Bishkek to use technologies that "allow internally displaced persons to also vote". It is not clear how they will reach and identify these hundreds of thousands of people. Neither has the UN explained whether and how the many refugees who have fled to Uzbekistan will be able to vote.
Rosa Otunbayeva’s interim government has repeated that this vote is crucial to restore order after a wave of violence. Certainly, the vote will allow the government constituted with the violent deposition of former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, to apply for accreditation at home and abroad supported by popular will. The television repeatedly appeals to people to vote. Yesterday the government launched leaflets on Bishkek from aircraft calling for the vote and accusing Bakiyev of the recent violence.
Experts say that Russia and the U.S. are ready to formalize relations with Otunbayeva, who was educated in Moscow and speaks English fluently. They say that the violence of recent weeks took place in areas where their own interim government has less support.
The new Constitution provides for increased powers of the prime minister, removing them from the president.